The First Shot
The role played by two destroyers, the Ward and the Henley, illustrates how quickly men adapted to the new situation. Men who have served on ships can appreciate the words of Donald K. Ross, who won a Medal of Honor for ordering his men out and staying at his post in the engine room of the battleship Nevada when it seemed certain he would die. "We give our souls to the ship, and she becomes a living thing to us," he said.
On that day hard men shed tears when they saw how badly their beloved ships were damaged, and it was that love of their ships, as much as anger at the Japanese, that kept many of them going.
The war actually began before dawn on December 7 when the aging destroyer Ward was steaming back and forth, covering a two-mile-square patch of restricted water across the entrance of the channel into Pearl Harbor. The Ward was one of about two hundred destroyers built in 1918, and for years she held the record for speed of construction at Mare Island in San Francisco Bay: She was launched seventeen days after the keel was laid.
The ship had been in Pearl Harbor since February, and during those months the crew had spent a lot of time at sea on patrol and in training. At least eighty members of the crew were from a reserve unit from St. Paul-Minneapolis; they had received thorough training during the past ten months and were ready for a fight.
The Ward was commanded by Lieutenant William W. Outerbridge, who was on his first patrol on his first command; he had taken over the ship from her previous skipper, Lieutenant Commander Hunter Wood,